American Airlines joins other airlines in altering benefits to punish unvaccinated employees who become infected with COVID-19.

American Airlines told their employees if they are unvaccinated their company-provided pandemic leave who become infected with COVID-19 will be eliminated.

The carrier, based out of Texas, sent a memo to all employees last week that its “pandemic leave will only be offered to team members who are fully vaccinated and who provide their vaccination card” in light of the full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Any employee who is not vaccinated and contracts COVID-19 causing missed days will be required to utilize earned sick time or medical leave to cover the lost days. The new stipulation goes in to effect starting Oct. 1.

American Airlines said in the memo, “We have heard from many team members that the full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives them additional peace of mind when they were previously hesitant to get vaccinated.”

As a result, the airline has the “desire to encourage as many of our team members as possible to get vaccinated.”

The airline stated that all employees who are already vaccinated need to submit their vaccination cards “immediately.”

If their vaccine proof is submitted by October 1, the airline will actually reward them. The airline is offering “U.S.-based team members who submit their vaccination card during this new window an extra day of vacation pay in 2021.” Previously the carrier was offering an extra paid vacation day in 2022 but that has ended.

While the airline has not gone so far as to mandate the vaccine, it “if the virus continues to mutate, cases increase and certain countries we serve require it,” they will switch their policy and require staff to be fully vaccinated.

American Airlines is not the only carrier to “incentivize” their employees to get the vaccine.

Last month, Delta Airlines announced that unvaccinated employees who participate in their account-based health plan will have to pay an additional $200 monthly surcharge.

In a memo to employees, Delta CEO Bastian said, “This surcharge will be necessary to address the financial risk the decision to not vaccinate is creating for our company.”

Alaska Airlines has also cut benefits to unvaccinated employees.

In an announcement last week, the carrier stated that any unvaccinated employee forced to miss work due to COVID-19 infection or exposure will not longer receive quarantine pay. Additionally, they are required to participate in a vaccine education program.

Alaska now requires all new hires to be vaccinated.

At this point unvaccinated employees are just being punished for their choice, experiencing the highest level of coercion. It is discrimination for which there is nothing to be done.

It is hard to imagine a vaccine mandate will not follow. Even if the company choses to continue the arm twisting, it seems likely the FAA will follow suit with other government agencies and municipalities and implement a vaccine mandate on all aviation workers.

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